Sunday, August 06, 2006

Go Ask Alice

Back from NY, back to the south and the west; everywhere and still nowhere at all. The idea of the wine merchant has been occupying my time, partly because it is in such a radical state of transition, partly because of the book I’m reading, and to a large part because of the market forces in play.

Friday I was scheduled to pinch hit for a supplier friend who was in the hospital on an emergency. The Friday wine staff seminar was all about grappa. Let me say, I’m not wacky about grappa, but a little but never hurt, especially if the meal had too much garlic or pepper, something that never happens in these forlorn backwaters. I arrived early to set up the grappa, the laptop for a possible PowerPoint presentation, tasting sheets, the whole kit and caboodle. What was I thinking? 13 grappas from Nardini and Jacopo Poli, two producers I had recently visited in Bassano del Grappa. I had been there; I had something to tell the servers on the front lines about, a selling strategy, a complete formula for success.

Only one problem, I was explaining color to blind people, sound to deaf souls, and taste to prairie dogs.

This is awful, feeling this way. I read some of the wine and food blogs and sometimes get a sense from some of the writers that they are above the rest of us folks. Some of them I have written to, sometimes with praise, sometimes with a question. I'm sure they regard themselves as the uber-bloggers, the rock stars of their world. They too, are important. Jeesh, they aren’t the Jefferson Airplane, though some of them do act like Grace Slick and Paul Kantor. Others, folks like Alder Yarrow and Regina Schrambling and David Anderson, are responsive, engaging and gracious in the communication. Thanks, on my knees, with gratitude, to them.

So when I burrow back into my borough and work on raising the ship and some snot nosed server who doesn’t know the difference between prosciutto and prosecco hijacks a serious grappa presentation with their ignorant whine that they “don’t like grappa” it’s all I can do to douse them with some Nardini and turn ‘em into burning man. Yeah, I’m pissed, going on 30 years in this colony and the somnambulisti’s rule as though they know what they are doing! Same as it ever was.....

Maybe it’s just the age I’m from and the age I’m showing, trying to impart something to these babies in the wine business. It’s not all numbers, but it is about making progress. 30 years is a long time to keep chopping in the woodshed. It’s time to light a bonfire, but where does one start? At the top of this food chain in the industry, the leaders are so bogged down that they rarely get word from the boots on the ground. The folks on the front line are there for a paycheck, a promotion, a career path. Who’s advancing the culture of wine? Which of the elephants are taking a chance on the tightrope?

Michael Bauer is commenting on high wine prices in restaurants and the comments he got (54 at this time) were all over the map. Restaurant owners explaining the high cost of operations, angry folks flaming over some minutiae, and on ad nauseam. Shoot the messenger, shout your talking points over the voice of the others, win, win, win. Glad that problem got solved.

Alice Feiring doesn’t have comments on her blog. She has a voice and ideas to convey. I’ve written her several times, she's been very helpful, very accessible. Alice has a great set of words as her intro when she writes, “I’m looking for the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want my wines to tell a good story. I want them natural and most of all, like my dear friends, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue.” Forget about points (100 scale and talking), forget about depletion allowances, forget about brand development funds, let’s just cut to the truth. Bravo, Alice!

There is coming upon the horizon a new stage of the blogger, some call it the super blogger. These folks will change the fabric, re-weave the threads of commerce, cause unknown entities to intersect and reconfigure in ways we can only imagine. But time is compressing, it’s heading this way faster than many of us will be able to see until it is moving through the station.

So the grappa was talked about, some tasted, the wine bufoon juggled the grappa pins in front of the wine babies, trying to get them to like the circus they are in and to not be afraid of the clowns. Maybe one or two of them got it. Hopefully, I gave them a grappa gospel that Poli or Nonino or Levi would approve.

Or maybe it will just be seen as a Catiline conspiracy that will be condemned by a present day Cicero.

What it is it what is has been for many moons….what moves it forward is ultimately the sell. Artfully, creatively, unceasingly. We will move forward, with or without you.

1 comment:

Travel Italy said...

The age old question "For Love, or Money..." Never a superstar but always passionate!

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